Friday, July 18, 2014

In stitches

Regimental colour
While Beloved Wife has been away in the Rebellious Colonies, I've been preparing for my trip to England next week. The primary reason for going is to get involved with an English Civil War battle re-enactment. My old ECW regiment, the Norfolke Trayned Bandes, is having its 40th birthday, so here's an opportunity to meet old friends in the flesh rather than on Facebook, to engage in quiet and sober reflection, or more likely have a riotous party.

Naturally, I donated all my old 17th century kit many years ago, not that any of it would by now have fitted my middle-aged spread, so I'd be needing new costume.

In other news, Beloved Wife and I made contact with the Incipient Shire of the Pearl Coast. Who? A small UAE-based group of re-enactors who are looking to start up a local Shire; a section of the Society for Creative Anachronism. The National ran a story with a picture gallery.

What to do about garb? Linen is easy to obtain in Dubai, down in Satwa; wool less so, but I found something that would suffice. I got some white linen and set about making a big floppy shirt and some Authenti-boxers.

We bought a sewing machine to replace Beloved Wife's old steam-powered device, and I've been practising on it. Two shirts, two pairs of underpants, and various other simple projects later, I'm at last beginning to get the hang of this marvel of whirling mechanisms.

Doublets and breeches are, however, beyond my ability. I sought advice from the NTB and Frances emailed me basic patterns plus a whole lot of advice. Mike of the Incipient Shire lent me a doublet too, and all this went with many photos and yards of linen and wool to my new favourite tailor in Satwa.

Sleeveless jack

I figure that after Marlborough, it's unlikely that I'll be an NTB regular, so I've picked garb that can be used for SCA stuff here in the hotter clime of the Middle East.

Further to this historical re-enactment, I've been practising on my recorders. It's an instrument authentic for any time after about 1388, so is good for 17th century. I do need to learn more authentitunes, though. My repertoire currently ranges from Liberty Bell, through The Teddy Bears' Picnic, The Beatles, Bach, and even some Iron Maiden. Beloved Wife is probably glad she's in the USA and out of earshot.


Friday, July 04, 2014

Monty bank

You don’t suppose for an instant that you’d simply forget a pile of cash that you put somewhere? Even pirates traditionally made a map to where they buried their treasure; they surely didn’t forget about it. But normal, non-piratical people apparently do forget their bank accounts. I can see the situation of someone dying, having left no will, no relatives, and no instructions for what the bank should do with the money. As you can’t take it with you, what’s a bank to do?

Here is what should happen:-

“Dear Valued Customer,
We note that you have not done anything with your bank account for some time. Please confirm that you still need it, and need it to be active, by doing something with that account within the next 30 days. Pay something in, perhaps, or make a withdrawal. Actually, as it’s an internet-only online savings account, just log on using your secure username, password, security device, mother’s pet’s maiden name, and gaze at the account balance. That will be enough to let us know that we shouldn’t bugger about with your account. If you don’t do anything at all, after 30 days we’ll set the account  to ‘Dormant,’ and you can then contact us when you want to wake it up.”

I wonder how long a Dormant account has to remain so before the Bank assumes that it can steal your money? Or “Absorbed as charge,” as they prefer to express it.

Anyway, over at my favourite Local Global Emporium of Red Triangles, they do it a different way:-

“Dear Mr Goat,
We note that you have not done anything with your online-only savings account, so we set it to ‘Dormant’ two days ago. Here are several irregularly-spaced flaming hoops you now need to jump through.”

So I took the account details along with my original passport to one of the Red Triangles shops in a shopping mall. “This account. It’s Dormant, but you have to go to a main branch to do something about it.”

“But the bank’s blurb says a Relationship Manager can sort it out, and that’s what it says on this plaque on your desk.”

“Not me, Mr Goat; a Relationship Manager at a branch. It’s a teller service; not an administrative one, despite what it looks like. And as we’re in Ramadan, all the bank’s branches shut at 2pm, about three minutes ago.”

Now, if I had indeed forgotten about a significant pile of cash for a year I might not be surprised at having the account put to sleep. But I look at it at least every month when doing the domestic accounts. I use a microscope so that I can see the interest accrued.  Seemingly, just accessing the account isn’t activity enough. I might be inclined to move money about, but there’s little incentive to make a deposit when the interest rate pays fractions of one percent. Similarly, what’s the point of making a withdrawal when I can buy a kilo of bananas with the monthly interest?

But what really gets up my nose is the bank’s keenness to shut down online access to an online-only account without prior warning. Wouldn’t it have been so much simpler to offer some timely alert so that I could move a nominal amount of cash around while I was banking online, instead of what I now need to do: drive all over town? Twice.


It gets better and better. I've now been to the bank, learned that reactivating a dormant account requires the filling in of forms, the presentation of at least one bank-issued card, my original passport and Emirates ID, and the making of a withdrawal. So it's both administrative and teller operations.

According to the relationship manager, in order for an account not to be suspended, the policy over at Red Triangles is that a withdrawal must be made at least once every three months. It is however possible to make deposits into a suspended account.

For Crying Out Loud! The e-saver account permits one and only one withdrawal per month without loss of all interest. I am apparently obliged to withdraw a nominal amount every 89 days just to prevent the account from being suspended, and then risk losing interest on the entire balance if I have to take out more money.

This is a Deposit Account. It's for Savings. Where, aside from the colossal interest paid [Hahahaha], is the incentive to save with Red Triangles?


Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Censure the censor

There’s been quite a bit of news here in the UAE about the new cyber-crimes law. It isn’t just to make hacking, phishing, scamming, and virus uploading illegal. Defamation is a big issue too. The local media were all abuzz a while ago when it turned out that, for example, it’s a criminal offence to make an assault in a public place an item of common knowledge by posting it on YouTube. It’s also potentially illegal to tag photographs on Facebook without the owner of the face giving written consent. In fact, even taking pictures of people turns out to be against the law, unless you have written permission.

Here’s me imagining that someone gurning in front of a camera gives that permission, but apparently not. Taking allegedly amusing photos of the scenes of drunken debauchery at any one of Dubai’s alcohol-fuelled Friday brunches could well lead to trouble, and we can see why. Imagine that I get my inebriated mugshot uploaded and tagged. Then, without my knowledge, it gets circulated by friends of friends of friends, and it lands in the inbox of my hypothetical ultra-conservative boss. A very real possibility of “Sayonara, Habibi!”

In practice, of course, the vast majority of pictures and tags are just fine; everyone’s happy to appear on their Facebook friends’ timelines, and innocuous pictures of a few friends having a couple of jars will not even be noticed, let alone commented upon.

A somewhat alarming part of the cyber-crimes law is that I am apparently responsible for what other people post in my blog or Facebook comments. I post a story, a few of my friends make comments, the thread goes off at a tangent, and then someone in Australia posts a supposedly witty remark concerning the intelligence and parentage of some prominent individual or corporate entity here in the UAE. That defamatory post would now be my fault.  

Hence the disclamatory footer on this blog. How can I possibly be held responsible if a hyperlink to a third-party’s website leads to something that someone, somewhere might find offensive?

The two local internet service providers in the UAE both provide connections to the 'net solely through proxy servers. It is obviously illegal to attempt to bypass the proxy, which automatically blocks gambling, anti-Islam, porn, and a whole lot more besides. Anonymising software that you can download from REDACTED is obviously not on an accessible website.

It’s coming to the United Kingdom too. “The [British] government is promoting filters to prevent children and young people from seeing content that is supposed to be for over 18s. This includes pornography and sites that talk about alcohol, smoking, anorexia and hate speech.”

I checked, and according to the website, TalkTalk has blocked my blog. There appears to be no way of contacting whatever faceless bureaucrat made the decision (because it’s doubtless a machine). Attempts to contact TalkTalk end when it becomes obvious that I don’t have an account with them. And never shall I.

So read this blog while you still can. The Grumpy Goat: Too controversial for TalkTalk.

To end on a happy note, and I realise that it goes with the current season in the way that ice-cream goes with ketchup, but here’s an old joke that circulated in Saudi Arabia a few years ago, on the run-up to the feasting season at the end of December. We’re already used to euphemisms such as “Festive” and also “Special Beverages” and even “Curly-Tailed Dog.” The UAE is, I'm pleased to report, much more relaxed than this.

Christmas Dinner Menu

Champagne Reception

Melon and Ham

Main Course
Roasted Christmas Turkey
Pork Chipolata Sausages
Roast potatoes
Red Wine Gravy

Choice of red or white Wine

Christmas Pudding with Brandy Butter

To Finish
Port and Cheese Board
Tea or Coffee

The opinions expressed in this weblog are the works of the Grumpy Goat, and are not necessarily the opinions shared by any person or organisation who may be referenced. Come to that, the opinions may not even be those of the Grumpy Goat, who could just be playing Devil's Advocate. Some posts may be of parody or satyrical [sic] nature. Nothing herein should be taken too seriously. The Grumpy Goat would prefer that offensive language or opinions not be posted in the comments. Offensive comments may be subject to deletion at the Grumpy Goat's sole discretion. The Grumpy Goat is not responsible for the content of other blogs or websites that are linked from this weblog. No goats were harmed in the making of this blog. Any resemblance to individuals or organisations mentioned herein and those that actually exist may or may not be intentional. May contain nuts.